BREADFRUIT chips from Samoa, coffee from Papua New Guinea, crystallised ginger from Fiji, squash from Tonga, cassava flour from Vanuatu, pandanus juice from Marshall Islands and cocoa from Solomon Islands.
These are just some of the products that Pacific Island farmers and entrepreneurs are supplying export markets, with assistance from the European Union-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) pilot project, which began in May 2008.
Implemented by an eight-member team based at SPC in Nabua, Fiji and Honiara, Solomon Islands, the FACT project is led by Agri-Forestry Export Specialist and FACT Project Team Leader Dr Lex Thomson.
Another member of the FACT team is Apiame Cegumalua, the export processing officer in the land resources division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). She explains: "The FACT pilot project arose out of the desire of Pacific governments to increase trade in agricultural and forestry products. This was seen as a way to help reduce trade deficits, assist in poverty reduction in rural areas and curb urban drift. "The FACT team is passionate about the work we undertake in the region to support farmers, rural dwellers, and small commercial operators to become export-oriented and market-driven, able to supply overseas markets consistently with competitive agricultural and forestry products.
"Part of FACT support includes assistance with ensuring that the produce meets international market requirements and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and has good quality packaging and label designs."
They are trained in food business management skills and techniques, food processing and food safety, as well as in ways to add value to their produce. Part of the process is to encourage farmers to draw on their own creativity in finding ways to reduce post harvest losses and utilise their produce once it has been harvested,' she said.
Thanks to FACT assistance, farmers from Tonga export fruit and vegetables to New Zealand; spices and essential oils from PNG are exported to Fiji, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom; and some of Fiji's root crops, vegetables and ginger find their way to Australia, New Zealand, France and the US.